On a recent trip to Wildwater Rafting's Chattooga River outpost, I got an inside tip on one of the prettiest spots in all of the Carolina foothills. Located on the back roads of rural Oconee County, I was a little skeptical until I pulled into the driveway of Chattooga Belle Farm in Long Creek.
This 198-acre working farm - once owned by actor and comedian Groucho Marx - offers stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just as beautiful are the exquisitely maintained fields of peach and apple trees, grape and muscadine vines and berry patches. The fruit offerings include six different types of freestone peaches, two dozen apple varieties and exotic fruits like persimmons, jujube fruit, pawpaws, Asian pears and figs. Add to that, pecans, English walnuts and almonds.
Along with the u-pick produce, the farm offers all-natural grass-fed angus beef from cattle raised on the property's pastures. The beef is sold in the Chattanooga Farm Store, along with homegrown jams, jellies, salsas, pickles, grits, cornmeal, corn flour, 10 different varieties of wine and handmade crafts and gift items.
In recent years, the farm added its own restaurant and distillery. Belle's Bistro is open for lunch in season and features a menu of soups, salads, specialty sandwiches and burgers made with Chattanooga Belle Farm beef. House-made spreads, including pimento cheese, herbed goat cheese, olive relish, roasted sweet potato dip and hummus, can be purchased to go. Don't miss the opportunity to sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous view of the mountains.
The distillery also sells products made with the fruits of the farm. The grapes are fermented and distilled on site to produce three brandies, two whiskies, moonshine, vodka, gin and bourbon. Tastings are offered year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
If you want to stay on the property, you have a choice of two tiny homes located on Horseshoe Lake near the cattle and llama pasture. RV campsites and primitive camping also is available.
Weaving through the rolling hills of crops is an 18-hole disc golf course featuring major elevation changes and water hazards. Cost to play the course is $3 per game. If the farm store is closed, just drop the fee in the pay box.
The farm's other major attraction is the Lomax Observation Circle, a giant compass rose surrounded by a stacked-stone sitting wall. On clear evenings, amateur astronomers can often be found with their telescopes gazing at a sky full of stars. Day or night, you'll find the rose holds a surprise if you stand in the center and speak.
Whatever the season, you're always welcome to walk through the fields, play disc golf or simply enjoy the view.
We had the place to ourselves when we visited the farm on a Saturday evening in August. Sitting in rocking chairs under the barn's covered patio, we enjoyed the panoramic vista as the sun set behind the mountains.
There's no better time to visit the farm than in September when apples are ripe for the picking. The fall harvest also includes seedless Concord, Thompson and Vanessa grapes, muscadines and scuppernogs.
Got you tempted? Find out more about Chattooga Belle Farm at www.chattoogabellefarm.com or call (864) 647-9768.